Serious Satire

Course Description

“Serious Satire” will use parody as a vehicle to introduce rhetorical principles and multimodal composition. We will consider the interrelationship among Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, and Nonverbal modes in individual and collaborative projects. We will use this WOVEN approach to explore how understanding irony, parody, and satire can make us better communicators.

Do you get your news from The Daily Show? Would you rather read The Onion than The New York Times? Satire has a long history, but it is as refreshing and controversial today as it was in ancient Greece. The best parodies are funny because they fully exploit the conventions of the genres they mock. In “Serious Satire,” we will discuss the WOVEN elements of news articles, political satire, lifestyle writing, and comedy sketches. Our major projects will include a news article parody, a dramatic monologue, a lifestyle column, and a collaborative video. We will practice reflecting on our work throughout the course, which will culminate in a multimodal portfolio showcasing student work. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Rhetoric: Create purposeful, audience directed artifacts that present well-organized, well-supported, well-designed arguments using appropriate conventions of written, oral, visual, and/or nonverbal communication.
  • Process: Use recursive strategies, including planning, drafting, critiquing, revising, publishing/presenting, and reflecting confidently.
  • Multimodality: Develop competence in major communication modalities (WOVEN) and understand that modalities work synergistically.
  • Collaboration: Be productive in communities of practice—for example, as readers and critics, as team members and leaders—balancing their individual and collaborative responsibilities.
  • Critical Thinking: Systematically analyze and question information in a manner that identifies and evaluates problems, processes, values, assumptions, and arguments in order to reach understanding, determine solutions, and initiate actions.

Course Projects

Participation—10%

Our class will be oriented around discussion, so your active participation is essential. Participation will be assessed on three main criteria:

  • Preparation: come to class on time and ready to work; do the assigned reading and writing.
  • Discussion: listen carefully to the instructor and other students; respond to others respectfully; ask thoughtful follow-up questions; take notes.
  • Collaboration: contribute to group projects effectively; put serious effort into peer review; come to office hours.

First Week Diagnostic Video—5%

You will create a 60-90 second video to introduce yourself, identify the course you are taking, and articulate a challenge you anticipate facing this semester in ENGL 1101. Begin by introducing yourself (name, major, hometown) and identifying your course (teacher, theme) in 10-15 seconds. Your video should articulate a challenge relating to one of the modes—written, oral, visual, electronic, or nonverbal communication—that you’ll be engaging with in class projects this semester. What challenges do you expect to face in relation to this mode? How might you overcome these challenges? Use specific examples. You might also use this assignment as an opportunity to set goals for yourself in terms of a specific mode of communication or in terms of developing a specific skill. To submit your video in Canvas: first upload it to “My Media,” then put a link to it in the assignment page. After submitting your video, you will write a one-page reflection considering how and why you made the choices you made in completing the diagnostic assignment.

Assignment sequence:

  • Video due—8/26
  • Reflection due—8/28

News Article Parody—15%

You will write a news article parody like those we read from The Onion. The goal of this project is to subvert, exaggerate, or otherwise humorously exploit the conventions of journalistic prose. You should use a journalistic style and format for a non-newsworthy subject or invert a widely accepted value system. Your parody should follow the format of a news article, including a headline, byline, and at least one image. You should employ the conventions of journalistic prose by opening with a summary of the story, keeping paragraphs concise, and incorporating quotations from experts and eyewitnesses. This piece should be about 500 words.

Assignment sequence:

  • Proposal—due 9/6
  • Draft—due 9/18
  • Final—due 9/20
  • Reflection—due 9/23

Dramatic Monologue—15%

The goal of this project is to use irony to critique some aspect of U.S. political culture. Your monologue may take the form of an acceptance/concession speech, policy address, state of the union, or political punditry from any part of the political spectrum. You might discuss domestic policy issues, such as immigration, healthcare, or tax reform, or foreign policy issues, such as diplomatic relations with other nations, international terrorism, or humanitarian aid. You might follow Swift’s example by proposing an absurd solution to a policy problem or Twain’s example by exposing a real politician’s vices. You will receive peer feedback on a draft of your script before recording your monologue. Your monologue should be three to five minutes long.

Assignment sequence:

  • Proposal—due 9/27
  • Draft—due 10/2
  • Final—due 10/4
  • Reflection—due 10/7

Lifestyle Writing Parody—15%

The goal of this project is to humorously exploit the conventions of lifestyle writing. You might parody an article about fashion, dating, sex, cosmetics, diets, or celebrity gossip, such as those we read from Reductress and McSweeney’s. Your article should have a provocative title, address the reader directly, and incorporate relevant slang or abbreviations. Your article might take the form of a quiz, product spotlight, or list of tips. You might open your article with a brief anecdote. This piece should be about 500 words.

Assignment sequence:

  • Proposal—due 10/11
  • Draft—due 10/21
  • Final—due 10/23
  • Reflection—due 10/25

Parody Video Group Project—20%

For this project you will form groups to create a video parody. You may parody any genre, including TED Talks, lifestyle vlogs, pop songs, political commentary, primetime news, sports talk, game shows, or reality tv. As you plan your video, use the examples from class—The Colbert Report, SNL’s “Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks,” Bo Burnham’s “Country Song (Pandering),” Burning Love—as models. Your video should be five to seven minutes long. Along with your finished video, you must submit a working script/storyboard (improvisation in the final video is fine) and a reflection on the tropes you sought to parody from your chosen genre. You will have access to Final Cut Pro through the multimedia studio, but you are welcome to use other film editing software if you prefer. If you need help with Final Cut Pro, I recommend using the tutorials available through Lynda. To submit your video in Canvas: first upload it to “My Media,” then put a link to it in the assignment page.

Assignment sequence:

  • Proposal and Collaboration Plan—due 10/30
  • Script/Storyboard Draft—due 11/6
  • Final Video—due 11/18
  • Reflection—due 11/20

Final Portfolio—20% For the culminating assignment in English 1101 and 1102, you will finalize and submit a multimodal reflective portfolio in lieu of a final exam. For your multimodal reflective portfolio, you select evidence from your body of work produced in the course, provide a context for this evidence, and describe the ways in which the evidence supports your argument that you have grown as a communicator. You should identify not only what you rhetorical, aesthetic, and technical choices you made, but why you made them in relation to the course outcomes. Your portfolio must include: 1) Reflective Introduction to the Portfolio: A page for a 1,200-1,800 word essay that introduces your portfolio and strategically employs multimodal elements such as images, videos, audio files, and/or links to accompany your text and demonstrate to your audience how your communication habits have evolved. 2) Artifact 0: A page for your multimodal diagnostic video, which you produced during the first week of class, along with a reflection answering the directed reflection questions about the artifact. 3) Artifacts 1-3: A page for each of three additional artifacts that together best reflect your work and development in the course, along with an introductory paragraph and short reflections (150-200 words) answering the directed reflection questions for each artifact. These artifacts should highlight your development in all WOVEN modes. Your portfolio will be due during our final exam period.

Tentative Schedule

Date Topic Readings Writing
M 8/19 Course
Introduction
   
W 8/21 WOVEN
Portfolios
WOVENText 92-103  
F 8/23 Critical
Concepts of
Communication
WOVENText 38-51  
M 8/26 Genre WOVENText 300-310 Diagnostic Video
due
W 8/28 Introduction to Parody “From The Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse,”
Mikhail Bakhtin 51-68
Diagnostic
Video
reflection
due
F 8/30   Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree,
Gerard Genette 10-31
 
M 9/2 Labor Day No class  
W 9/4 News Articles WOVENText 475-483  
F 9/6   Independent Work Day  
M 9/9 Parodying the News “Scientists Trace Heat Wave To Massive Star At Center Of Solar System” The Onion News
Parody
proposal
due
W 9/11   “Museum Of Repressed American History Conceals New Exhibit On Tuskegee Experiments” The Onion  
F 9/13   “Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8” The Onion  
M 9/16 Revision WOVENText 713-731  
W 9/18 Workshop Peer Drafts—News Parodies News
Parody
draft
due
F 9/20 Political
Satire
“A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift News
Parody
Due
M 9/23   “King Leopold’s Soliloquy,” Mark Twain News
Parody
reflection
due
W 9/25   “We Need a Wizard Who Can Appeal to the Moderate Orc Voter,” David Howard  
F 9/27   “Just to Be Clear, the Witch-King of Angmar was an Insignificant Volunteer in the Great Army of the Dark Lord Sauron,” Bob Vulfov Dramatic
Monologue
proposal
due
M 9/30   The White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Hasan Minhaj Michelle Wolf  
W 10/2 Workshop Peer Drafts—Dramatic Monologue Dramatic
Monologue
draft
due
F 10/4   Independent work—film dramatic monologues Dramatic
Monologue
Due
M 10/7 Lifestyle
Writing
“19 Yoga Outfits That Will Make Your Warrior Pose Look Super Effing Legit,” Rachel Torgerson Dramatic
Monologue
reflection
due
W 10/9   “How to Make the Most of the Gap Between When He Interrupted You and When He Remembers What He Was Going to Say,” Loretta Donelan  
F 10/11   “5 Ways to Fight the Patriarchy Without Coming on Too Strong,” Tricia England Lifestyle
Parody
proposal
due
M 10/14 Fall Break No class  
W 10/16   “Jamie and Jeff’s Birth Plan”, Paul William Davies Mid-term
evaluations
F 10/18   “Martha Stewart Explains Her Drone,” Henry Alford  
M 10/21 Workshop Peer Drafts—Lifestyle Parody Lifestyle
Parody
draft
due
W 10/23 Collaboration and
Team
Projects
WOVENText 186-209 Lifestyle
Parody
Due
F 10/25 Video
Tech
Workshop
  Lifestyle
Parody
reflection
due
M 10/28   “Levi’s Woke Jeans” SNL  
W 10/30   “Friendos” SNL Parody
Video
proposal
and
collaboration
plan
due
F 11/1   “Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks” SNL  
M 11/4   “Only in Monroe” Stephen Colbert  
W 11/6 Workshop Peer drafts—Video Parody Script/Storyboard Video
Parody
Script/
Storyboard
due
F 11/8   Independent work—begin shooting parody videos  
M 11/11 Parody
and Pop
Music
“Country Song (Pandering)” and “Can’t Handle This (Kanye Rant),” Bo Burnham  
W 11/13   “A Gender Reversal Reversal,” Flight of the Conchords  
F 11/15   Groups 1 and 2 Video Screening Parody
Video
due
M 11/18   Groups 3 and 4 Video Screening Parody
Video
reflection
due
W 11/20   Groups 5 and 6 Video Screening  
F 11/22     Revise
Portfolios
M 11/25     Revise
Portfolios
W 11/27 Thanksgiving Break No class  
F 11/29 Thanksgiving Break No class  
M 12/2     Revise
portfolios